Sunday, February 26, 2012

Who Damaged Sabah - is the culprit?

Lest we forget: Electoral guidelines when voting wisely.

Pairin called for the election in February after the courts fined him M$1,800 for corruption, just short of M$2000, the amount which would mean legal disqualification from the chief ministership. Amonth earlier, Jeffrey Kitingan had been released after two years' detention.

The PBS campaigned on the theme 'Sabah for the Sabahans' and Kadazan-Dusun nationalism. It argued that a BN victory would lead to 'colonisation' by Kuala Lumpur. The issue of state rights centred on the 'Twenty Points', signed in 1963, which had stipulated Sabah's (and Sarawak) rights and privileges under the proposed Malaysian federation. According to PBS, many of the Twenty Points, which include guarantees for state autonomy over immigration, education and religion, have been routinely violated or curtailed completely by the Federal government. The chauvinistic elements in PBS asserted that if the Kadazan did not vote PBS, the chief minister's post would go to a non-Kadazan with the result that the Kadazan and NMB community would be discriminated against, as the Mustapha and Harris administrations had been. Pairin's corruption charges were portrayed as political vendetta by the federal BN authorities against the Kadazan community; a serious indictment given that Pairin was the Huguan Siou (paramount chief) of the Kadazan. PBS also demanded an increase in petroleum royalties from 5 percent to15 percent, the setting up of a university, a separate TV station for Sabah and the return of the island of Labuan.

The illegal immigrants from the southern Philippines also became a key issue as they were widely blamed for the huge rise in petty crime, as well as for taking employment opportunities away from the locals. PBS blamed the illegal migrant problem on the federal government (and UMNO as it controlled the federal administration) as national security came under the purview of Kuala Lumpur. Religion was also a prime issue as UMNO was criticised for trying to stamp its Muslim-Malay brand of politics on a state where the Malays arein a minority, whereas the majority natives are Christians and where there is a sizeable Chinese population. The religious factor had an added political consequence as it was widely believed that the majority of the illegal Filipino were Muslims and on this basis,were issued with blue Malaysian identity cards (a sign of citizenship), which would make these Filipinos eligible to vote.These Filipino Muslims were almost certainly expected to vote for the champion of Islam, Sabah UMNO. Although it is impossible to ascertain the exact number of such voters, their open presence in many constituencies made Islam into an important electoral issue. In a surprising move, Mustapha Harun, defected to PBS.

The BN's campaign was based on the carrot that it alone had the resources to develop Sabah economically. Its manifesto promised huge infrastructure projects as well as the state's first university. To counter PBS's accusation that UMNO would 'colonise' Sabah, the BN promised that if elected, the chief minister's post would go to a Sabahan. In order to secure the NMB and Chinese vote, Mahathir announced that under a BN administration, the Sabah chiefministership would be rotated every two years equally between MB, NMB and Chinese communities.

The BN campaign received a major boost when Yong Teck Lee, the highest ranking PBS ethnic Chinese member and deputy chief minister, defected and established a new party, the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP). Yong's blunt message was simple: the Chinese business community, which has a seventy percent share of Sabah's economy, would suffer if PBS were re-elected.

The results were surprisingly close: PBS won 25 seats while the remaining 23 were won by the BN (UMNO 18; SAPP 3; LDP 1; AKAR 1).Of the 436,448 votes cast, PBS took 215, 952 votes (49.66 percent),BN 201,374 (46.3 percent) and the rest went to the smaller parties and Independents. The voting pattern was clearly racial: PBS won all 15 NMB-majority constituencies and UMNO took all 18 MB constituencies. With the Chinese vote partially split by SAPP, the seven Chinese- majority constituencies were divided between PBS (which won 4) and BN (3).

Almost immediately, intense jockeying began. BN tried to persuade a few PBS legislators to defect with promises of financial windfall and positions in the next administration. The governor,Tun Mohamad Said Keruak, initially refused to swear-in Pairin. Pairin was forced to start a vigil outside the gates of the governor's mansion. After 36 hours outside the mansion, Pairin was formally sworn in as Sabah's chief minister.

Less than two weeks later, three PBS state assemblymen and a PBS MP became the first of many PBS legislators to defect. Even Jeffrey Kitingan, Pairin's younger brother announced that he would quit PBS and join BN. Pairin tried to call for another state election but the governor flatly refused, insisting that it was too soon to call a new election and since BN clearly had the confidence of the majority of the assemblymen, it should be given a chance to form the next administration. With only five state assemblyman left in this party Pairin formally tendered his resignation and was immediately replaced by Sakaran Dandai, Sabah UMNO's chief.

The defection by senior members of PBS spawned a host of new political parties. Former PBS secretary- general, Joseph Kurup,formed the Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) while former deputychief minister, Bernard Dompok, formed Parti Demokratik Sabah (PDS). Jeffrey Kitingan also tried to form a new party, Parti DemokratikSabah Bersatu (PDSB). However, he was unable to register the PDSB and instead opted to join Angkatan Keadilan Rakyat Bersatu (AKAR) as the deputy president. In addition to these Kadazan-Dusunparties, as mentioned earlier, former PBS Chinese deputy chief minister Yong Teck Lee formed the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP).

In December 1994, Sakaran Dandai, the Sabah UMNO chief ministerresigned to take up the state governorship. He had been facing opposition from several Sabah UMNO legislators as well as from the federal side. Mohammad Salleh, son of Sakaran's predecessor as Governor, Tun Said Keruak, took over as the new chief minister.


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